Shock in Maryland Political World as Kevin Kamenetz Dies

Kevin B. Kamenetz, the 11th Baltimore County executive and a leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in next month’s primary, died suddenly early Thursday morning of an apparent heart attack. He was 60. According to a statement from the Baltimore County government, Kamenetz woke up in his Owings Mills home around 2 a.m. and complained of feeling ill. He was rushed to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, where doctors pronounced him dead of cardiac arrest at 3:22 a.m. The county government said more information would be made available during a briefing at the county’s public safety building in Towson at 11 a.m. today.  The late Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz, who died suddenly Thursday morning.  Kamenetz is survived by his wife, Jill, and two teenaged sons, Karson and Dylan. Elected officials and political leaders throughout the state – including Kamenetz’s political opponents – expressed their shock and sympathy as news of his death began to spread. “The First Lady and I are shocked and grieved by the sudden passing of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz,” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said on Twitter. “Our prayers go out to his family and many loved ones this morning.” In a later statement, Hogan said he would order that the state’s flags be flown at half-staff in Kamenetz’s honor. Kamenetz’s death instantly transforms the Democratic gubernatorial primary – but in incalculable ways at this early stage of the news. He had consistently polled second or third in public polls on the primary, and had the biggest cash-on-hand total among the seven Democratic candidates the last time campaign finance statements were released in mid-January. Kamenetz had recently reserved about $1 million in time in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., TV markets, which would have boosted his name recognition further. Another leading Democratic gubernatorial contender, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), postponed plans this morning to announce that he was being endorsed by several state senators. “Today is a tragic day in Maryland,” Baker said in a statement this morning. The Democratic candidates for governor had been together at a forum at Bowie State University Wednesday night, and another was scheduled for tonight at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. “I am stunned by this news as I had just watched hours earlier Kevin passionately and eloquently share his goals, vision, and ideas for the state of Maryland,” Baker said in his statement. He later added: “As much as Kevin was advocating for what was best for Baltimore County, he was also always looking out for all Marylanders.” Although no one is saying so yet, the race for the Democratic nomination is likely to be put on hold – at least through Kamenetz’s yet-to-be-scheduled funeral and burial. While Kamenetz was campaigning throughout the state, his base was in the Baltimore area, where there is now an opening for other candidates to try to attract added support. Kamenetz was a fixture in Baltimore County politics for decades. He was elected county executive in 2010 following four terms on the County Council. He had been active on the county’s Democratic Central Committee before that. While there is already a vigorous campaign underway to replace Kamenetz as executive when his term ends in December, the County Council will now be tasked with selecting a temporary replacement in the days ahead. Until then, the county’s administrative officer, Fred Homan, will serve as the acting executive. This marks just the second time that there will be a transfer of power in Towson before the end of an executive’s term. In 1974, then-County Executive Dale Anderson was convicted of multiple federal corruption charges. The Council tapped Frederick L. Dewberry to serve the remainder of Anderson’s term.  Maryland Matters will post statements from political leaders about Kamenetz’s death shortly. Please follow Maryland Matters for more on what happens in Baltimore County and on the campaign trail. [email protected]

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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